Most people probably couldn't tell you the first thing about Northern Michigan University other than it's in the northern part of Michigan, and that would only be half-right. (It's in the Upper Peninsula, not the "main" part of Michigan.) And yet Northern Michigan is now a trailblazer in higher education after it became the first college in the United States to offer a degree in medical marijuana.
This year Northern Michigan began offering a degree in "medicinal plant chemistry." According to their website, the degree will require "rigorous coursework in chemistry and biology with research and hands on instrumental analysis built into the curriculum to prepare its graduates for a career in the cannabis industry." A professor for the university says this is a simple by-product of the industry's current boom.
"I mean, you see Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California with full legal recreational marijuana. You've got over half the states with medicinal legal, and with all of that has come a huge need for these trained analytical chemists," said associate chemistry professor Brandon Canfield. "In terms of a four-year regular undergraduate degree, there's nothing else like this."
Just because the degree is designed for students to enter the medical marijuana industry does not mean they'll be allowed to grow or practice with actual cannabis crops. Instead, the school will provide similar types of plants that students will use extraction techniques that can be used in the future for marijuana cultivation.
The head of the university's chemistry department says that while medical marijuana will be a major part of the degree, the skills and techniques learned by the students can be used for other fields as well, including "herbal supplements, fermentation science, food chemistry and environmental analysis."
"The knowledge and skills acquired are applicable to the cannabis industry, but also translate to the broader field of natural products chemistry and a wide range of professional opportunities," said Mark Paulsen, head of Northern Michigan's chemistry department.
This might be the first time anyone actually wants to go live on the Upper Peninsula.